Orediggers run down Saints in five-set thriller

Orediggers run down Saints in five-set thriller
Montana Tech setter McKenna Kaelber tries to keep the ball in play against Carroll College Thursday night at the HPER Complex. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bruce Sayler 

Montana Tech coaches and administrators alike were smiling Thursday night while calling the Orediggers’ five-set volleyball victory over Carroll “a big win.” 

They weren’t wrong. 

It was a big match, too, with Montana Tech digging down not only for saves, but within its team makeup for the 19-25, 25-19, 26-28, 25-18, 15-11 Frontier Conference win in the Orediggers’ HPER Complex. The hard-fought, nearly even-steven battle sets up an anticipated rematch for Friday at 7 p.m. in the same facility. (Stats)

“That was something,” Montana Tech head coach Brian Solomon said. “I thought a lot of our players stepped up tonight. We had 16 blocks, that was one of the main things.” 

Sneaking or blasting the ball past either squad’s net was a challenge. So was landing the shot. Defense ruled. 

“This one of Sydney’s best games of the season,” Solomon said of 6-foot-3 Oredigger junior setter Sydney Parks. “And Taylor (Henley) finished the game very strong. All of our hitters came around and did something good for us. 

“But, I’m really proud of how our two middles (Parks and Henley) played.” 

Parks had 13 kills and nine blocks in superb net play. Henry notched 11 kills and five blocks, and starred in the tie-breaker game. 

Montana Tech and Carroll were never more than two points apart the early half of the fifth set. The Orediggers finally grabbed control, tenuous as it was, at 7-6 on a Henley kill. Two kills by teammate Maureen Jessop followed. 

The rivals battled point-for-point, but the Saints could get no closer than two points of the lead. Henley scored on three more kills before the end of the match. A wallop by Karina Mickelson gave the Orediggers match point at 14-11, then Carroll’s Madi Quick punched a return into the net, where it tangled and fell. The match was over. 

“We’ve been piecing some stuff together,” Solomon said of recent work in practice. “I thought both teams played extremely well tonight.  

“It was a good job by our players. We’ll reset for (Friday).” 

Friday’s match will finish the regular season for both teams. Carroll has a 10-7 record while Montana Tech stands at 7-10. 

Most of the first set, Thursday, was tight with Carroll not taking the lead for good until Lexi Mikkelsen hammered a kill for a 9-8 edge. Quick soon served a five-point run highlighted by a Taelyr Krantz kill, a Mikkelsen block and Quick’s own ace. The run stretched the Saints’ advantage to 20-11.  

They got to set point, 24-18, on a block by Maddie Boles. Jessop killed a shot for Montana Tech, but Boles banged home a kill for the game win. 

Montana Tech pulled a reversal in game two, beating Carroll by the same 25-19 score. The Orediggers grabbed control earlier, however, going 5-4 when a serve by Saint hitter Katherine McEuen sailed over the end line. Jessop and Mickelson paced an offense that kept the Orediggers in front. Jessop served a short, important run to a 22-16 margin. Mickelson powered it with two kills. 

Setter McKenna Kaelber teamed with Parks on a block for set point at 24-18. Krantz crunched a kill to delay the Montana Tech win a serve. Parks, however, then clobbered a free ball for the winning point. 

Game three was a intensity-jammed marathon. Montana Tech held a four-point lead, 13-9, after a kill by Henley, but the gap narrowed and it was mostly a tied for one-point set until it finally ended. One of Parks’ blocks gave the Orediggers set point at 24-23, but Krantz tied with a kill. An error by each team kept the score tied. Another Parks block made it a 26-24 Montana Tech edge, but Carroll responded with a kill by Mikkelsen and block by Boles. A setter’s dump shot by Ali Williams for Carroll sent the  Saints to the fourth set with a 2-1 lead in games. 

Montana Tech gut-checked successfully. The Orediggers never trailed. They opened the fourth set with a 5-0 run behind the serving of libero Hannah Oggerino and two kills by Parks. Mickelson’s serve took the Orediggers from a 7-3 advantage to a 10-3 spread. The Saints lurked close behind, but never pulled even. Another Parks block tallied set point at 24-18 and then Kaelber set a nice shot for Mickelson to thump and force the tie-breaker. 

Mickelson finished with 21 kills and Jessop with 15 as four Montana Tech hitters notched double figures. Kaelber set 56 assists. Oggerino had 26 digs, while Jessop registered 16 and Hudsyn DiBrito 10.  

Carroll, coached by Butte native Maureen “Mo” (Tutty) Boyle, was led in kills by Krantz with 17, Mikkelsen with 14 and Boles with 12. Kylie Kackman and Williams combined for 55 assists, and Krantz led in blocks with five. Five Saints were in double digits in kills as libero Julia Carr totaled 22, Quick had 19, Laurel Kassa 15, McEuen 13 and Kackman 12. 

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